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Confucius said, "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves." Vengeance is always a double-edged sword. Once you start down that dark path, there is often no turning back. Xuan Lang is a man in search of vengeance. A man dead inside ... with room for nothing else in his heart. A quiet man of about seventy years, Xuan exemplifies the kindly old Asian grandfather. He keeps to himself, running a small herb shop nestled in a peaceful Texas neighborhood. He attracted little attention. Those few who knew Xuan could have no knowledge of the sorrow, the pain, and the rage that existed just beneath the surface ... that inside the shell of this kindly old man lurked the heart of a relentless killer. During the Vietnam War, his wife and only daughter were raped and murdered. At that point in time, the man Xuan was ceased to exist. With a vengeance in his heart, he travels to the United States to find and kill those responsible for his family's brutal death. To honor his dead wife and daughter, Xuan never marries again. Instead, devoting his life to one task. And, he has nothing but time. As the twisted trail of vengeance and murder begins to unravel, Xuan starts to see the impact of his actions on those acquaintances around him. His new relationships are compromised. Now, the FBI is closing in. Is it too late for Xuan?
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Copyright © 2018 by Eric Reese
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Eric Reese writes from the heart and hits you in the gut.
An old voice for a new generation.
The American Sniper
Eric Reese may have written the Greatest Post-Vietnam War Novel.
A Vietnam Vet
While seeking revenge, dig two graves - one for yourself.
About the Author
The year is 1980. Crowds of people were rushing to catch their flights. Some waited in the large lobby while others were making their way out of the airport. However, Xuan Lang was gliding his suitcase across the white polished tiles, staring at the exit. He was determined to get into a taxi as soon as possible. After waiting for five minutes, he boarded and passed an address to the taxi driver, taking in the beauty of Texas. Xuan got a working visa for six months; he questioned himself if he could finish his assignment in precise time. After all, he was a foreigner and wasn’t sure if he would have a warm welcome from the Americans.
His mission was dear to him, and it would require many hurdles to get it right. He peeked at the driver as the vehicle came to a halt. “We have arrived, sir.” The man flashed him a smile. Xuan quickly paid him and exited. His residence was in an older part of the city while the neighbors watched him in curiosity to know why a stranger visited their secluded neighborhood, examining him.
As they passed by, Xuan smiled to them and bowed his head. In front of his new home, the facade on the outside seemed to be peeling off. He struggled to take his suitcase up the stairs, worn out from the long flight. Inside the house, the living room was spacious, and the kitchen was visible, joining the dining room. It was considered a considerable step bearing in mind, the circumstances which took place just a year ago.
Xuan took his belongings to his room and unpacked. Between his mats, rested a folder with information of importance. Not minding the mess, he took the folder and set it on the desk. Making himself comfortable, he went through the preserved documents.
For Xuan, every day was a living hell. He held in so much resentment in seeking revenge for his family. The papers sprawled on the desk had the intelligence of the seven soldiers he had to execute for what they've done. Those seven men were the reason they no longer existed. On his own, there was no one to trust.
Passing the immigration checks were tough, but the result was incalculable. Xuan had six months to complete his mission. It was the only thing he lived for. The memories of his wife and daughter being gone were still engraved in his heart. As Xuan drifted in thought, he realized that he must focus on the Intel.
The easiest target was Tim Marshall; a fucking slob who was old and weak. Xuan had been following his trail for the last year as Tim had regular stops at the emergency room for unknown complications. “Bastard,” Xuan mumbled to himself as he stared at Tim’s photo. The profile had a work address and a social security number. Somehow, if he tracked the number, he could get more details on places of residency, bank information, and other important details. For now, all Xuan had was a workplace, and it wouldn’t be easy to get him inside of there. Ever since Xuan stepped off the plane, the only vengeance filled his mind. There would be no rest until those men paid for what they had done for this eternal pain.
The next man was Ben Rogers who appeared to have a lot of wealth. He owned many plots of land around the country. Ben had three children and his second wife was much younger than him. He often played at the most elite golf clubs wherever he traveled. Xuan wondered about his wealth and knew it was key to getting to him.
Matthew Jones was the third. A heavy gambler that lost his home and was now renting out an apartment with his wife. Records show he has weekly visits to a psychiatrist due to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Xuan took a sip of tea setting the three papers aside and reading over the next one. In bold, it read, Zachary Hamilton. Served after Vietnam as the right hand of the Major General and was respected amongst his peers. Xuan's blood boiled in rage and his indignation rose. He decided to not touch the remaining files for the rest of the afternoon and go ahead with his mission, believing it would be the only way to suppress his redemption.
His thoughts were cut off by a loud knock on the door. Setting down the papers, he strolled to the wooden door peeking through the peephole. A woman, who appeared to be in her late forties, was on the patio smiling, waiting for the door to be opened. Xuan paused but ended up pulling the door open meeting her gaze.
“Hi, I see you just moved here!" Her high-pitched voice uttered in excitement, pleased to meet him.
“Yes, a few hours ago if I am correct.” He responded nonchalantly.
“Well, I wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood.” She handed him a box which resembled a gift wrapped. Xuan thought it might be a bomb because of its warmth.
“Right out of the oven.” Her teeth glared, and Xuan accepted it not sure if what her intentions were. He had come across many types of individuals through former business dealings but was never given a welcoming present.
“Thank you.” He replied as he set the box down on a stand by the door.
“I’m Katherine, it’s very nice to meet you," she said while offering him a handshake. Xuan smiled back and shook her hand. “Xuan.” He bashfully introduced himself.
“I'll see you around, and if you need anything, we are always here.” She waved goodbye, and Xuan smirked while closing the door shut. He returned to his place, thinking if there were more than his neighbors aware of his arrival. Studying the profiles of his last two targets was troublesome. There so many vague intricacies around their exact whereabouts.
For the rest of the day, Xuan didn’t bother going outside. He sipped on a few more cups of green tea, leaning on a table in the living room, poring over all the information. As nightfall fell, it was time for him to push through although he had little rest.
It was the night of Tim’s birthday, and Xuan was determined in keeping a close eye on him. This was the opportunity to slip into the party undetected as a waiter. Xuan prepared for his night out wearing a black suit with a red tie, an odd occasion for a man his age. His hair back making it shiny with the gel he overdid.
After closing the windows and locking the doors on the way out, Xuan walked to the nearest taxi stand about a half mile away. It was a busy evening, and the streets were overrun with vehicles. "Maybe I will have to buy a car," he thought to himself. Xuan is seventy years old and his days of youth have passed away long ago. Once he arrived at the station, he got inside the first taxi waiting. The driver started the engine and pulled off.
“Are you new in town?” The driver kindly asked, starring at Xuan from the rear-view mirror.
“Well, yes, I just arrived this morning.” Xuan flashed his wrinkly smile while the driver nodded keeping his eyes on the road.
“It’s a lovely place. I’m sure you will grow fond of it.”
Xuan nodded. “I sure hope so.” Looking out the window, he realized they were now in the busiest part of the city with large buildings surrounding them on both sides.
After ten minutes, the driver said: “We are here.” Xuan snapped out of his thoughts and paid the driver, getting out. It was the first time he would see Tim in years. The place was a high-end restaurant and was already filled. Xuan chose not to enter the front door and made his way to the side exit, entering without being noticed. Upon entering, some waiters looked at Xuan but continued doing their work. He strolled past chef’s grill and headed to the lobby, looking around to see if he recognized Tim.
As Xuan arrived, Tim and his wife came in the restaurant holding hands. The crowd paused and greeted. Tim appeared much older than his profile picture, and his wife looked the same age. The couple passed by Xuan and waved at everybody in the restaurant, thanking them for coming. Xuan mixed in with the guests and approached a table with a couple of men and women seated, looking lost in their conversation. As he was about to introduce himself, a younger man to his right spoke. “Excuse me; this seat is taken.”
“Just as I was about to introduce myself.” Xuan flashed a big smile. “Xuan Lang.” The table went silent turning their attention to him. Xuan felt his blood boiling, expecting humiliation.
“Never heard that name before.” A man said in a cocky manner.
A woman sitting on the opposite side added. “He's a stranger in this town."
"So are you here for the auction, Xuan?” A man across the table asked in a berated tone, which set Xuan off.
"Auction?" Xuan laughed. "You guys must be filthy rich." Judging by his suit, Xuan was outside their league. The table cheered at Xuan's response.
“What sort of business do you have Xuan?” Another man at the end of the table asked at the edge of his seat. “Herbs, I own a herb shop.” He felt proud of himself even though it was partly true. Back in Vietnam Xuan opened an herb shop, but he was forced to close it due to his unfortunate circumstances. Right then he gave it a thought; the business would flourish here in Texas. Excellent idea.
“And is this business of yours successful?” The table laughed as the man asked. “Why would I keep doing it If it wasn’t?” Xuan challenged raising a brow. The man now smirked. “I see how it is; maybe we can talk about it more over dinner.” He suggested taking in his statement. The waiters only served drinks, but as the night went on, he took notice of the dimming lights.
He then noticed Tim walking to the podium with his wife by his side, almost jumping out of joy by only looking at the crowd. Significant artifacts placed on both of their side. It gathered the table’s attention. “Finally, it’s starting.” The woman clasped her hands together in excitement; she might’ve been a friend of Tim’s wife.
Xuan’s eyes were fixed on them. He studied their every move and ignored the cheers from the table. “Ladies, Gentleman.” Tim seemed happy having a strong grip on the microphone he spoke looking into the crowd. “I am thrilled because you could join me tonight.” As Xuan carefully listened, he raised his head trying to get a better glimpse of the artifacts.
Expensive paintings were fixed on the sides. "We will start the auction now." His wife spoke with a grin. The crowd went silent patiently waiting to bid. At that moment Xuan thought of the most obvious way to get close to the family, along with his other friends. He would participate in the auction and buy almost everything on the panel. He had leftover money on his bank account and hoped it would be enough to cover the price. It was the only way to start a friendship, and he was willing to do anything.
“First up is the Marionette Vase,” Tim announced pointing to the side, where the object was placed. For sure it looked like something out of the previous century, but he kept his quiet, as it wasn’t anything he wanted to spend a dime on. “First up it is at eight hundred dollars!” The words echoed through the hall, everybody ready to try to take it home. “Nine hundred dollars!” The woman behind him offered and Xuan could hear her husband’s disapproval.
“Nine hundred dollars.” Tim pointed at her waiting for other bidders. “One thousand!” A voice from another table spoke and quickly after another followed. “One thousand and two hundred!” Pathetic. Xuan thought, so much for an object with such little importance.
“Sold!” The woman cheered clapping her hands. Next up was a painting, which resembled as something his wife would’ve painted. It brought him back to the happy moments, recalling the times he was spending time with his wife and daughter. He couldn’t let this reminder slip away from him.
“Starting at five hundred dollars.” This time it was Tim’s voice. “Six hundred!” The man next to him he met earlier stated. Xuan gave him a quick glance; he was persistent to get his hands on the painting. “Seven hundred!” Xuan raised his hand everybody turning his attention to him, the new face gathering their attention.
The recognition soon faded when another voice chirped in. “Nine hundred.” Which came as a shock to Xuan, he never thought something like that would get so many high prices, but he continued with the bidding without any second thoughts. “One thousand.” Xuan liked a challenge. And for sure he would not give up easily.
There were no bidders after him, satisfied he turned around and poured himself a glass of wine. “Sold!” Tim announced impressed. Xuan raised his glass to thank him for having a wide smile on his face. The painting was his property now.
The auction went on for some time, and Xuan was able to make friends on the table. Unfortunately, he still couldn’t get a hold of Tim, although he kept an eye on him all night.
“All the new owners of the artifacts may proceed this way.” The wife of Tim announced, and he got up almost instantly, following everybody to the back door. He along with four other people entered a smaller room, and Xuan noticed it was filled with the items they had bought.
“Congratulations, I’m Anna.” Tim’s wife introduced herself as she stopped right in front of the objects. Xuan was behind the people following closely behind. They all thanked her together, and she offered them drinks. After pacing around awkwardly the woman noticed Xuan was by himself, so she offered to keep him company. “You chose one of my dearest pieces.” Her wide grin flashed in front of him. He almost choked on his wine and wiped his mouth quickly. It made her laugh, and he set his glass down turning his attention to her. “I will make sure to cherish it then.” Xuan bowed his head to her respectfully.
“My husband pushed me into selling it, you know we’ve been in some financial problems as of late.” He was surprised she was so straightforward, but it was noticeable she regretted admitting. “I shouldn’t have said that.” She said, her chuckle echoing.
“It’s fine by me; we are all human. We can afford to make mistakes, and every one of us has financial problems sometimes in life.” Anna was taken aback by his sincerity, and the words she just heard came to her as a surprise.
“Well, now I’m sure my secret would be guarded with you,” Anna admitted not being able to hide her happiness. “You have my word.” Xuan smiled back at the woman. They had financial problems. The information would serve him right; he knew one weakness Tim had, to think smart to use it effectively. Their conversation was cut off by her husband. Tim grabbed her by the waist and pulled her towards him just as a lion and his prey. “You must be Xuan Lang.” Tim starred him down. “That’s right.” He simply answered. “My wife and I would like to invite you to come to dinner tomorrow, all the winners of the auction will come it would be a shame if you didn’t.” He got straight to the point in inviting him. Looking more at his wife than Xuan, however, when Xuan cleared his throat, he forced himself to look up.
“I will think about it, thank you for your offer.” This time, he was aware what signals Tim was showing. He didn’t want him anywhere near his wife. And he decided to walk around meeting the other bidders. It seemed almost everyone was invited to the dinner, but their statements changed his opinion ongoing. He couldn’t possibly miss the best chance of getting to know Tim. Afterward, he left an awful first impression because it seemed like he was flirting with his wife.
Xuan was becoming tired with the minute, and after saying his goodbyes he took a taxi back home. The rest of his night was a bore. Eventually, he went to sleep thinking about the dinner that was supposed to take place the next day.
Picking out the best suit was sometimes a struggle, and in this case, it appeared Xuan was nowhere near to getting ready. His room was a complete mess, his gut filled with regret because he didn’t pack enough formal attire. At the end, he chose to wear the tuxedo he last wore. The funeral of his dearest wife and daughter.
Xuan was seeking revenge for the murder of his wife and daughter. One year ago his wife was raped by seven American soldiers although one of them was Vietnamese. His daughter was wrongfully murdered.
The war did him no good, and it only left unbearable scars he had to live with every single day. Putting on the suit was one, the last time he wore it was at their funeral. It reminded him of his both angels but as much as it hurt him he had to pursue his revenge.
Sighing, he buttoned his tuxedo straightening his pose in front of the mirror. He looked presentable and ready to make a good impression. Once again he took a cab to reach his destination, another day of him not speaking a word to the neighbors and It wasn’t much to their liking.
He didn’t know those people; it was odd he was being invited to dinner but as he got closer to the place; he noticed he wasn’t the only one invited. Various cars were parked in the driveway that seemed to be a decent size. Due to traffic he couldn’t help but be late for around fifteen minutes, but the owners didn’t seem to mind and welcomed him with a huge grin on their faces.
“We’ve been expecting you Xuan.” Anna embraced him in a hug once he passed the gate. Tim on the other side shook his hand pleased at his arrival. “Traffic.” Xuan simply answered expecting them to understand. Just as he expected Anna urged him to come inside. It would be a blatant lie if he said they were from the middle class, their house seemed more of a mansion for someone that had financial problems. Maybe they were in a crisis. Xuan thought to himself.
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